The North Bay arts community began responding to last October’s wildfires almost from the moment they broke out, and artists have been helping us deal with the event and its aftermath ever since.
With the first anniversary this week, the region’s museums and arts centers are ready with exhibits that not only help us reflect on the experience but enable us to help each other recover emotionally and spiritually.
This is not just about coming to terms with what happened, but also about moving on. As playwright Bertolt Brecht once said, “Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”
Opening Saturday at the Museum of Sonoma County in Santa Rosa, “From the Fire: A Community Reflects and Rebuilds” combines a new exhibition of work by seven artists with the results of two fire-related projects initiated shortly after the disaster, now on display in the museum’s art building for the first time.
“This is how we process what happens to us in life,” said Jeff Nathanson, the museum’s executive director and art curator.
“It’s important to reflect, and try to understand and work through — psychologically and emotionally — this traumatic experience.”
Images and videos from “The Fire Wall,” a website launched last February by the museum to post hundreds of fire-related art pieces and stories, will be represented at the exhibit with an interactive digital display. See it online at museumsc.org/fire-wall/ The show, which continues through Jan. 27, also will feature “The Fire Collection,” including objects that survived the fires and photos documenting the fires and the aftermath. One of the now-iconic objects in the show is the burned Coffey Lane street sign from that ravaged neighborhood. For details, see jotform.com/kazanza/firecollection
Working on the exhibit with the museum’s deputy director and history curator, Eric Stanley, Nathanson discovered that the project fulfilled the organization’s dual missions: displaying the region’s art and documenting its history. Some objects from the “Fire Collection,” admirably represent both efforts.
“Somebody’s dresser had burned, and it had a glass top. There’s all of this jewelry that had melted into the glass and fused together into intricate patterns. They’re actually beautiful sculptural objects,” Nathanson said.
Original art in the exhibit represents work by cartoonist Brian Fies, who has documented his fire experience in a graphic nonfiction book, as well as artists Teresa Camozzi, Kimberlee Koym-Murteira, Gregory Roberts, Adam Shaw and Penny Wolin.
At the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art in downtown Sonoma, “From Fire, Love Rises: Stories Shared from the Artist Community,” runs through Jan. 6, featuring work by 14 visual artists and 20 writers.
The work includes bronze sculpture, photography, ceramics, printmaking, poetry, prose and more.
“The genesis of the exhibition started during the fires,” said museum executive director Linda Keaton. “We knew that artists had lost the studios and lost their homes. We started doing outreach, and the artists started making other connections for us with people they knew that had been impacted.”
The first anniversary of the fires is an important landmark for the arts community, and the community at large, but it is hardly the end of the journey, she explained.
If You Go
What: “From the Fire: A Community Reflects and Rebuilds”
When: Saturday through Jan. 27, 2019. Opening reception: 3-6 p.m. Saturday. Hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Where: Museum of Sonoma County, 425 Seventh St., Santa Rosa
Admission: $7-$10; children 12 and younger free
Information: 707-579-1500, museumsc.org
What: “From Fire, Love Rises: Stories Shared from the Artist Community”
When: Through Jan. 6, 2019
Where: Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, 551 Broadway, Sonoma
Admission: $10; children grades K-12 free
Information: 707-939-1862; svma.org
What: Sonoma County Art Trails
When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 13-14 and Oct. 20-21
Where: Artists’ studios through Sonoma County
Other Fire-Related Exhibits
— “Renewal Through Art,” through Nov. 17. Petaluma Arts Center, 230 Lakeville St., Petaluma. Artwork including rescued and reclaimed artifacts by 22 artists. Schedule and information: petalumaartscenter.org
— “Reflections: After the Fire,” through Dec. 14. Sonoma State University Library Gallery on campus, 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. Paintings, photography, video and mixed media by 21 participants.
Schedule and information:library.sonoma.edu